Self-reflection is an amazing and powerful experience in which your consciousness views your existence, seen clearly in the light from the mirror of our thoughts. It is a process that comes highly recommended by many psychologists as an aid to self-improvement. It is also practiced by many ascetic devotees of various religious traditions, and those individuals do often experience great personal growth from it. I too, engage in extensive self-reflection, and know that it has had many positive impacts on my behavior. It does make sense that when we can view ourselves from without, we are able to see our behaviors more clearly and that such an awareness can be an incredibly strong impetus toward lasting change in our behaviors.
And yet I wonder how often we actually manage to engage in genuine self-reflection. I try to practice it on a regular basis, but I often realize years later that I was missing many critical flaws in myself during my periods of self-reflection during my childhood and teenage years. It seems as though the view to my existence is being refracted rather than reflected, that the light shining on my soul is often distorted by the darkness floating within it, making it difficult to see clearly what lies within as the light slows in its slanted march. I think that we are often afraid to look closely at those muddy waters in our consciousness, to view objectively those parts of our being which contain the hypocrisy and ill will, the fear and loathing. It is so much easier and more comfortable to look at the clear waters of the best parts of our consciousness, to enjoy the beauty of those parts of our being which contain the honesty and good will, the courage and love.
It is so much more pleasant to view the pristine reflection from the clear waters of our best qualities and virtues, and yet it is equally important to face bravely the distorted images we see refracted through the muddy waters of our flaws and hurts. Please don’t be afraid to reach into those muddy waters, and trust me when I tell you that each time you confront the darkness within, its power wanes. Please believe that the lasting pain of holding onto the flaws and hurts is far worse than the quick agony of letting them go. Please understand that the fear of letting others see the darkness within you is holding you prison far more effectively than any judgments that others can make against you.
The waters of our souls can be purified bit by bit, using the virtues and good will we possess to filter out the impurities. And perhaps, once we have purified the waters of our souls, we will no longer need to engage in difficult self-refraction, and we can instead simply enjoy the wonder of self-reflection.